Why does Scout want to know about her father defending "niggers" in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 9, Scout nearly finds herself scrapping again--this time with Cecil Jacobs, who has antagonized Scout by claiming that Atticus "defended niggers." Scout isn't sure what it means or why it angers her--she asks Jem, but her brother tells her to ask Atticus--but she knows it is uncomplimentary. Cecil

"... made it sound like you were runnin' a still."  (Chapter 9)

Scout also doesn't understand that using the "N" word is demeaning to African Americans; to her, it's just another way of referring to black people, and she uses it innocently enough. But Atticus directs her to stop saying it because

"That's common."
     " 's what everybody at school says.."
     "From now on it'll be everybody less one."  (Chapter 9)

Atticus explains that he is only doing his job, defending an accused man who happens to be black. He tells her that Tom Robinson is simply an innocent and decent black man who deserves fair legal representation. Later, when Atticus is accused of being a "nigger-lover," he tells Scout that it is true enough since Atticus tries to love all people.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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